Our stock of fresh superlatives has already been depleted by the performance claims Aston Martin is making for the forthcoming Valkyrie AMR Pro. Based on the company’s early numbers, this track-only special is going to make any garden-variety hypercar seem barely more exciting than an overloaded minivan. We’re told to expect more than 1100 horsepower, less than 2200 pounds of mass, and—insiders say—the ability to generate more than its own weight in downforce. Yet the reality might end up being even more viscerally thrilling than those numbers suggest.
At the Geneva auto show, we got the chance to talk about the Valkyrie with the two senior executives jointly leading the project, Red Bull Racing’s Adrian Newey and Aston Martin’s creative director, Marek Reichman. The achievements section of Newey’s résumé takes up several closely typed pages; the 59-year-old Brit is the most successful Formula 1 designer of all time, having scored no fewer than 10 constructors’ championships with Williams, McLaren, and Red Bull Racing. The Valkyrie is the result of his long-held desire to create the ultimate street-legal performance car, but the track-only AMR Pro that was shown in concept form at Geneva will have an even blacker heart and will be unfettered by the restrictions normally applied to race cars.
Newey casually let slip that it could well end up bettering the extraordinary claimed figures. “The downforce we’re quoting is obviously early days,” he said. “We’re very early in the evolution of this car; the model you see now is effectively the ideas that stand behind it as a sketch given over to Marek’s team to interpret. It will of course change quite a lot from that.”
Buyers should not expect an excess of toys or, indeed, anything not explicitly involved in making the car go faster. “The lighter weight is mainly [from] stripping out all the things you don’t need for a track-only car—emissions related stuff and silly things like heaters, lights, and glass,” he said. “It has plexiglass instead. There’s slightly lighter construction, too, with carbon wishbones and carbon brakes rather than carbon-ceramics. Add that together, and it takes a fair bit of weight out.”
All versions of the Valkyrie will use a naturally aspirated V-12 engine in conjunction with a hybrid assistance system, but Newey said the car was almost designed with a radically different system.
“I spent a lot of time looking at different power units,” he said. “The two obvious choices were a V-6—either single- or twin-turbo—or a high-revving naturally aspirated V-12. In the end I came to the conclusion it should be the V-12 because of what that allowed you to do in terms of structural mounting, because it’s a very well-balanced engine with good NVH characteristics.
“And with a turbo you need intercoolers, so by the time you’ve put those and the turbos on it, the weight starts to become fairly similar, and unless you’ve got an e-turbo you’ve got response problems. So I felt that technically the V-12 was marginally superior, but it was a close call. And, of course, emotionally as well.”
Note that, in Newey’s world, emotion is clearly outvoted by performance. That’s how single-minded both he and the car are. Nobody knows yet quite how much faster the AMR Pro will be than its roadgoing sister, but the difference is likely to be substantial.
“It’s the combination of lighter weight, a bit more power, much more downforce, and slick tires,” Newey said. “Put those four factors together, and you are looking a quite a big improvement in lap time.”
We did get some more details on how the Pro will get its increase in power from that 6.5-liter V-12. “Once you’ve removed emissions equipment, that frees up engine performance,” Newey explained, “and Cosworth were able to retune to that. Plus there are some other differences. We go from plenum throttles to manifold throttles to give a bit more power. We can also tune the e-motor slightly.”
The other revelation is that there will actually be three versions, with the third sitting between the roadgoing Valkyrie and the full-fang AMR Pro. “There’s an intermediate product as well,” said Reichman. “We have the road car with a track pack on it . . . effectively it’s a plus pack that you can get on the road car because of some of the legal hoops we have to go through in order to put the car on the road.”
“It’s near the road car, in truth,” Newey added. “It’s the road car with a slightly different front clam, which allows a bit more bump travel and other things like uprated brake discs and cooling, which you clearly need on track given the level of downforce we have.”
Color us surprised if anyone actually orders the unadorned road car without this performance-boosting track pack.
Reichman admitted that adding design appeal to a car with the need for such aggressive aerodynamic performance is a challenge; we’ve been told the car will be capable of generating more than 3 g’s of peak lateral acceleration. “The trick,” he said, “is making the aero surface follow, in certain areas, some of the lines that the designer wants to have. We’ll have the conversation about whether it is better or worse, because of course it can’t be detrimental to what we want to do with the performance of the car. But there’s always more than one way to skin a cat.”
Valkyrie AMR Pro buyers won’t get their cars until after all the street-legal Valkyries have been delivered; apparently all of these have to be sold before the end of 2020 due to forthcoming changes to European emissions regulations. Given the high likelihood that the performance claims will grow even more outlandish in the gap before it makes production, we imagine it will be worth the wait.